It is cliché but it truly does all start with the starters. Once again Joe Maddon was able to manage an easy ballgame as his starter pitched deep into the game. It was a sight for sore eyes as the Professor finally looked like the Professor. Hendricks matched Cole Hamels seven shutout innings and a lot of blemishes can be covered up by a rotation that continues to pass the baton like this.
Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo each had nice days at the plate. The pair had just three hits but reached base in over half of their plate appearances. Javier Báez finally had an ugly day at the plate with an O-fer with three punchouts, but the maturation is that he still managed to contribute to the team despite the lackluster plate appearances. The damage was pretty spread out up and down the lineup as Javy was the only regular to not reach base.
The Cubs have been getting fat off of some bad teams, and it has seen their record finally reach .500 for just the second time on April 19 of the year 2019.
Kyle Hendricks was very good. The Professor worked a very stress free seven innings of shutout ball to earn his victory of the season. The drama was removed early with Hendricks issuing a one out free pass to Eduardo Escobar in the first inning. Christian Walker single with one out in the second inning. Walker ran with two outs and ended up on third on a wild pitch. That was the one moment were the outcome was truly in doubt. Hendricks struck out Nick Ahmed to end the threat.
The Cubs bats remained potent and their relentless patience was on display in the first inning. A pair of walks gave the Cubs a scoring chance against Merrill Kelly, but he managed to escape with no runs scoring on a Willson Contreras ground out. The second inning saw the Cubs jump on a more aggressive Kelly for three straight singles but the game remained tied as Jason Heyward, Daniel Descalso and Kyle Schwarber had to play station to station ball. A Hendricks bunt attempt resulted in a force out at home and Daniel Descalso struck out to give Kelly a chance to wiggle out of the jam. Kris Bryant delivered a clutch two out double to put the Cubs ahead 2-0.
The Cubs had another scoring chance in the third inning, but the wobbly Kelly managed to keep his team in the game. It didn’t matter with the way Hendricks was dealing. It also didn’t matter because he walked Descalso ahead of a one out Anthony Rizzo triple. Kelly was removed after issuing his seventh free pass in 3.2 innings to load the bases. Matt Koch won the battle with a David Bote ground out to end the inning with the bases still jammed.
Koch would pitch the rest of the game for Arizona in a piggyback start. That was certainly a positive for the club getting only 3.2 innings from its starter. He lost the war though by placing Bryzzo on base yet again. Bryant singled and Rizzo drew a walk as the pair reached base for the third time in the game. Javier Báez hit into a fielder’s choice that advanced Bryant to third. A wild pitch from Koch allowed Bryant to score and Javy being Javy resulted in him reaching third on the play. Willson Contreras singled in Javy making it a 5-0 lead for the Cubs. A Jason Heyward hit by pitch gave the Cubs yet another runner in scoring position with less than two outs, but Koch was able to stop the bleeding as a crooked number again alluded the Cubs bats.
Hendricks largely cruised through his seven innings. The Diamondbacks only managed to put a runner in scoring position against Hendricks in the second and fifth inning. Arizona didn't have an extra base hit against Hendricks. He walked two while striking out 11. Steve Cishek pitched the eighth inning and worked around a two out single to Wilmer Flores.
Brad Brach was given the five run lead to hold in the ninth inning. He did his job inducing a weak groundball right to Anthony Rizzo from David Peralta, but the ball clanked off of the first baseman’s platinum glove to allow the leadoff man to reach for the first time all game. Adam Jones was able to softly serve a ball into shallow center to give the Diamondbacks some late life. Brach was able to strike out Walker but then Ketel Marte hit the hardest ball of the inning over Almora’s head. Peralta scored and the D’Backs had a pair in scoring position with just one out. Brach picked up the assist creating a save situation for trusty Pedro Strop. Nick Ahmed hit the ball right to Kris Bryant at third for the second out of the inning without any runners advancing. A diving Strop slider was all that was needed for the final punch out of Carson Kelly. The Cubs are back to .500 for the first time since March.
Kris Bryant hasn't looked good at the plate for most of 2019. The results have matched how he has looked for the most part and so more than a few people have wondered if he is truly healthy. Bryant has proclaimed himself fully healthy repeatedly, but he hasn't been the MVP level player he was prior to even joining the Cubs.
That said it feels a bit like this with the way some fans have talked about Bryant since his production dropped after a significant shoulder injury last year.